Witness - Southampton Joiners. 3rd May 2001
How good is this? When Sedgy asked me if I wanted to go and see a mate's band, Velvet Town (who incidentally, were very good), at our local legendary music venue I readily agreed. Despite not knowing who would be headlining. After all, many luminaries of the music scene have lightened the doors of the Joiners and there's always the chance you could stumble across the future of rock & roll.
Its not a 100% risk-free prospect however, amongst the signed posters of the likes of Coldplay, JJ72, Hefner etc that line the walls of the bar is one scrawled on by Toploader. Ouch.
So imagine the delight of realising it was to be Witness! A band who, with "Before the Calm", had produced one of the two top albums of all time. Nice one.
They opened their first gig for a year with the familiar chiming chords of "Scars" which sounded as beautiful as it does on the LP but a lot louder with the three-pronged guitar treatment it was given. As with the whole set, Gerard's rhythm guitar allowed Dylan to get all melodic on our collective ass with his bass.
A couple of songs in and we get to hear some new material from the forthcoming LP which, judging by by the live interpretations hint towards a higher ratio of beats per minute. "Here's One For You" was particularly moving. The title track "Under A Sun" and "You Are All My Own Invention" (which I'm led to believe will be a single) both gave Ray a chance to show just what can be done with a guitar if you have the genius gene and, particularly the latter, rocked out nicely and truly connected with the punters in the intimate surroundings. It was just unfortunate that such a well crafted, emotive and exquisitely delivered songs were not to be heard by more people in the half-full (or half-empty - depending on your psychological profile) room.
The highlight of the set, in my opinion, was "Still" which was, perhaps surprisingly, played fairly early on. I'm afraid I don't know enough superlatives to pay it justice. Its the most affectingly fragile song that I have ever heard. That was the sound of a hundred hearts breaking in the audience that accompanied it. Mr. Langley could probably have put his sticks down and we would have kept percussion with our rupturing aorta as Gerard's plaintive vocals start to soar and the music swells up, engorged with the kind of soul that most bands can only have wet dreams about. When stuff is this good it amazes me that we're actually allowed to just walk into a shop and buy it or watch at a gig. It's a privilege.
When they finished with a brilliant version of "Freezing Over Morning" I told Gerard that the odd tear had been known to escape my eye when I listened to "Still" and he apologized, saying he didn't mean to upset me. I reassured him that it was more to do with the workings of my own head that it got such a response but in retrospect I've changed my mind. What does he expect when he sings "put your shaking hand in mine, like you're a part of me, like you're actually a part of me..." in such a manner? Lyrically, I find it to be a very positive song but, I can assure you, its a good soundtrack to unrequited love. To grief. To losing your hair. To losing your hair. To losing your mind. Its also a damn fine Sunday morning comedown song - a hangover cure, because it always makes you feel better. I think I'll put it on in the morning. I can also honestly say that Dylan is the nicest bloke in the world after we had a post-gig chat and thats saying something - I've met Aidan Moffat!
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